As we move closer to the 2023 NFL Draft (April 27-29), The Big Red Zone is looking back on each of the 28 St. Louis Cardinals drafts (1960-87). This installment focuses on the 1963 Draft, which was held on December 3, 1962, in Chicago.
1963 St. Louis Cardinals Draft
One year after one of the worst drafts in team history, the Cardinals had one of its best. Eight players made the roster (two more would join it in ’64) and four of those eight (strong safety Jerry Stovall, linebacker Larry Stallings, defensive end Don Brumm and tight end Jackie Smith) started as rookies. “I still can’t believe that a draft could be so productive,” coach Wally Lemm said. “Several of them were among the best players we ever had.”
Jimmy Burson passed away on August 2 at the age of 81.
Burson was the Cardinals’ eleventh-round selection in the 1963 NFL draft. He was an outstanding offensive back at Auburn where he set a school record with a 105-yard kickoff return.
The Cardinals switched the Georgia native to defense where he gained a starting role at cornerback in 1964 and intercepted three passes. He also returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers. The fleet corner picked off five passes in 1965 and two more in 1966.
The Cardinals traded Burson to the Washington Redskins in 1968, but he was soon after acquired by the Atlanta Falcons. Burson intercepted four passes in 1968 before calling it a career.
Following his playing career, Burson began coaching at the high school level in The Atlanta area. The highlight of his career was a 12-year stint as head coach at Milton High School from 1974-1985.
Most people are aware of the historic struggles the St. Louis Cardinals had when it came to the NFL draft. There were some very good drafts over the years (1979-1983 for example), but more times than not, the Big Red left their fans scratching their heads (“They drafted a girl!”).
I thought it would be fun to go back and rank the all-time Big Red draft picks by round. Many on this list were no-brainers, but there were a few very competitive rounds. I’m sure everyone will agree that some of the greatest names in Cardinals history are on this list, including four Cardiac Cards offensive lineman, and all four Hall of Famers. But I also learned something about the Cards top 16th and 20th round picks, Jimmy Lee Hunt and Tom Day. Both were released by the Cardinals and both went on to become stars in the AFL. Hope you enjoy!
ALL-TIME ST. LOUIS CARDINAL DRAFT PICKS BY ROUND
ROUND 1 – ROGER WEHRLI (1969)
Wehrli was a consensus All-American at Missouri when the Cards selected him with the 19th pick in the draft. He went on to a 14 year career in St. Louis that included 3 All-Pro and 7 Pro Bowl selections. He had 40 interceptions, 19 fumble recoveries and was the longtime holder for Big Red kickers. He returned a fake FG for a TD in his final NFL game in 1982. Roger Staubach called him the best cornerback he ever played against. Wehrli was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team.
With the NFL celebrating its centennial season in 2019, the league will soon be announcing its top 100 players of all-time. I thought it would be fun to look back and rank the Big Red’s top 100 players who played in St. Louis.
The Cardinals moved from Chicago after the 1959 season and played 28 years in St. Louis before Bill Bidwill moved to the desert in 1988. Several great players played under the arch during this period including four Hall of Famers.
These rankings are only based on the player’s time spent in St. Louis. Consideration was given to the player’s statistics, All-Pro/Pro Bowl selections, team leadership, and impact in the community. It is next to impossible to compare eras, so many of these picks were very difficult.
The Top 100 St. Louis Football Cardinals of All-Time: 80-71
80. JOE CHILDRESS (RB)
The “Old Pro” Joe Childress was an All-American running back at Auburn before being the Chicago Cardinals top draft pick in 1956. The big fullback/halfback was an understudy of Ollie Matson and John David Crow early in his career, but led the Cardinals and finished sixth in the NFL in rushing in 1963 with 701 yards. He also finished second on the team in rushing in 1964. Childress was an excellent blocker and receiver out of the backfield as well, averaging over 14 yards per reception. Childress was released after an injury plagued 1965 season and joined former head coach Wally Lemm in Houston where he coached from 1966-1970.